I am a psychotherapist and usually tell angry, blocked people to let their anger out. Would you advise against this in all cases?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I completely stand behind my advice that we shouldn’t do this. Mind is a creature of habit. If you allow yourself to be angry once today, then you will be angry twice tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow, you’ll be lonely because our fellow human beings don’t like angry people.

We have already created a whole generation of singles because everybody takes their own trips and feelings too seriously and thinks that they are so important and meaningful. Buddha’s and my own advice is to treat anger as a completely embarrassing, unpleasant, and slightly too clingy customer. Don’t put any energy into it. If the anger comes back, then try again not to put any energy into it.

It is important to remove the conditions that might cause anger. Always remember that the anger wasn’t there before, it won’t be there later, and if you live it out now it will lead to a lot of suffering afterwards.

Don’t create dramas; keep a stiff upper lip and put on a presentable face. Then work it off and let go of the things inwardly during meditation.

It is also important to know that Buddhism starts where psychology ends. Some people who are on a Buddhist path need a good psychologist, and that is all right. But if you have reached a level where you can stand behind yourself and your vision of the world, then just let things pass by without putting energy into them.

I always thought that it was quite good to live out one’s anger from time to time. Do you have a different opinion about this?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I boxed for four years and I can tell you: If you want to win, you just need to make the opponent angry. Then he moves like a combine harvester through the ring and only makes mistakes.

Anger is like adrenaline poisoning. You get the same outer signs like red eyes; your hands break things, and your voice becomes hoarse and unclear. You sweat and experience adrenaline sickness caused by yourself. On the other hand, when we stay cool, we do exactly what we want and have complete control. We are grown up when we have control over life—when we can decide to take part in the comedies and stay away from the tragedies. I would definitely consider anger an enemy. It can look powerful if one stands there and rolls one’s eyes, but it is totally ineffective and only causes one to make mistakes.

If one is greatly disturbed by the behavior of another person, how can one deal with it without getting angry?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When anger is triggered by habits, then it is important to be aware of what is happening there. Generally speaking, I am not against powerfully intervening in situations, as long as when you do it you don’t exclude the other people from your good wishes!

You can’t draw a line, saying, “Humanity is there and I am here.” Instead, bring in something positive and work with it. Then you’ll move forward. Of course you should show if you feel disturbed, otherwise you will become neurotic. You should just show it in a controlled, friendly way.

So if there is something that strongly disturbs you—if, for example, you see that your relationship with your boyfriend is about to end because he is always leaving his socks on the table when you two are about to eat—remember that he doesn’t do this to tease you. He does it because he didn’t learn any other way, maybe because he was raised badly. You tell him that it disturbs you and that it damages your relationship. Then, if he changes his habit, it is an act of love. And if he doesn’t change this habit, then you can use the energy of your anger to build up as much strength as you need to be able to move out.

But in the long run, one shouldn’t make a martyr of oneself. The following example illustrates this: A married couple had lived together for a long time and used to have rolls on Sundays. The husband would eat the upper half and his wife the lower. But there was always something about this that bothered both of them. After a long time, they realized that the man actually wanted to eat the lower half and the woman the upper half.

It is not good if one is so thin-skinned that one cannot talk to fellow human beings. It is better to find a good way of communicating and to keep in contact.

I have understood that one can use violence if needed but should do so without anger?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, that’s right. For example, if people are severely disturbing my lectures, then I sometimes carry them out personally. As long as one isn’t angry but does what is needed, then it is completely all right.

Sometimes it is simply important to take drastic measures. If we only have shirkers—who don’t risk anything, look away, and don’t take any responsibility—then our culture will disappear after a while.

If one must use violence, it should be without emotion. Rather, it is imperative that it be done with compassion. One should work like a doctor who knows, “If I don’t operate now, then there will be more suffering and difficulties afterwards.” The purpose must be to benefit others and ultimately to help them on their way.

Here is a funny example. My mother was about five feet tall and was from the pre-vitamin generation, but she was also a physical education teacher. We had a summer cottage in Denmark close to a meadow where horses used to graze. As a five-year-old boy, I once stood there with my back to the fence lost in thought, petting a horse that had its mouth above my shoulder. My mother saw that the horse suddenly flattened its ears; it somehow became aggressive and showed its teeth. My mother jumped over a fence that was as high as she was and drove her head against the horse’s belly with full power—just as the horse wanted to bite. The horse jumped three feet in the air. My mother had nothing against the horse but wanted me to continue on in life with two arms.

In situations like this, one experiences a completely new dimension, as if in slow motion. One acts very precisely, and most of the time one succeeds without harming the opponent too much.

Are there situations where one has to act with an angry appearance in order to create something good?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you act with anger, then the result can’t be love, peace, and harmony. Anger is toxic. It is only when the ego doesn’t trust itself that it thinks it has to act with anger.

You act much more effectively without anger. Your actions are stronger and better when you act out of compassion. Then you are much smoother; you see precisely what is there and you get your results. Outwardly, you can put on a powerful, angry appearance, but inwardly you must not be angry.

Many young people come to me asking for a certificate that says that as Buddhists they cannot become soldiers. I cannot support this; I was a soldier myself. If there are no soldiers, then who will protect our society and our freedom? We actually have our freedom only because we had enough soldiers. You can very well be a Buddhist and protect your country. You just mustn’t be angry while you do it.

Sometimes I manage to fight anger quite well, but often this feeling turns into a strong sadness. What does that mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It is a sign that you have strong purifications. You jumped into this with deep interest and full of openness. You walked the way of the Buddha and have seen that there is suffering, that suffering has causes, and that perhaps there is an end to suffering.

You are strongly interested in bringing suffering to an end. And the more energy, openness, and trust you put into the practice, the more challenges will also come up. There can actually be situations where one goes through all kinds of things and thus cannot have much meaningful contact with many people. That is why we have retreats. There you can dump everything on the table without people constantly criticizing. You can silently go through many inner processes. It is best to do this with one’s teacher or in a group retreat. When the difficulty is gone, then one comes out and can be sociable again.

You are gifted and have really understood that the mind cannot be destroyed. Everything difficult that happens—that comes from the inside—is a purification. In these cases, you can be certain of three things: it won’t be too much, you will learn something from it, and you will always get rid of something.

It is important that you say a lot of mantras, a lot of KARMAPA CHENNO, and that you stay focused. You should also think about the emptiness of things: that everything appears, changes, and dissolves again, that things are not as real as you want to make them. The ego also likes to hide in the drama of the purification process. If you meditate, the energy channels will open up, you’ll go through purifications, but then get back to work. Don’t get absorbed with the drama too much.

How do the disturbing emotions transform into the buddha wisdoms, and what do these wisdoms mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When looking at disturbing emotions, our view is very important: From the view of the eagle, everything is wisdom. From the view of the mole, everything is a disturbing emotion. Only few take the eagle’s view, while most experience anger, jealousy, etc. But if one doesn’t respond to the emotions, if one simply lets them appear in mind and dissolve in mind again, then an entirely new dimension appears, a completely new experience—the way coal dust transforms into diamonds.

When anger dissolves again, mirror-like wisdom appears—like a mirror showing everything as it is. One sees things and recognizes them precisely for what they are. One doesn’t add or remove anything. This ability to see clearly is compared to the lucidity of a diamond.

In the case of pride, one has the chance to transform narrow pride—thinking, “I am better than you!”—into all-inclusive pride, thinking, “We all are great!” And when pride dissolves back into the mind, then one suddenly recognizes that everything is composed of a great number of conditions. Nothing appears by itself; everything is interdependent. This is called equalizing wisdom, because everything takes on the same taste of richness—like jewels that shine by themselves.

I’ve noticed that when I manage to avoid anger in a personal encounter, then afterwards slightly arrogant feelings appear. This also isn’t good, is it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If it helps you avoid anger, then it is okay to have a feeling of arrogance or any other substitute feeling. You can have this until you get tired of it—then it will also leave.

Treat anger like a poison: You simply have to split it into less dangerous components and then break it down further. In the end, you can spread it on the ground as fertilizer.

Almost any means is allowed to avoid anger. I also recommend you to think, “I only have to spend ten minutes with him, but he has to be with himself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” This is also slightly arrogant, because you put yourself above someone else. But if it keeps you away from an outburst of anger, then it has been useful as well.

In the end one merely watches and thinks, “Why does he do that?” One doesn’t have any anger anymore and can’t understand where it went.

My brother is very aggressive and picks fights all the time. Is there any way I can help him?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If he is willing to say a mantra, then a few million repetitions of OM MANI PEME HUNG would be good. That removes a lot of aggression.

I myself lost interest in fighting during my first visit to a nude sauna. There I suddenly saw how much naked skin there is that can be injured, how vulnerable people really are. When I left the sauna I thought, “Now I will protect them. Now I won’t beat them up anymore; I will change the program.” And that was very good!

To me it doesn’t feel like anger comes from inside but that it is planted in me from the outside. Is that possible?

Answer of Lama Ole :

If you don’t have any anger in yourself, then you won’t feel any anger outside! I promise you: it is a question of ring and hook. If there is no ring for the hook of your anger to catch, then you see the supposed opponent as a strange animal in a zoological garden performing somersaults. No angry feeling can arise; you only think, “Strange, why does he act in such a funny way?”

By meditating and removing anger in yourself, you become like a duck: everything poured onto you streams down on all sides and you don’t get wet. This is what we are aiming for.

You might cover the whole world outside with leather to walk in comfort. This would be nice, but also a lot of work. Or instead you meditate, which is like putting on shoes. Then you have your own small piece of leather to walk on, and it also doesn’t hurt.

Is it possible to think that we are angry with someone for a certain reason, but that the real reason lies in an issue from a former life?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, it is quite possible that in a previous life someone took your partner away or killed you. This could be your karma.

This is actually one of the reasons it is so difficult to stop wars. Many beings kill each other and then meet again in another life in all kinds of countries just to kill each other again and again. The only antidote is that the people in an area become so positive that those with bad karma don’t get born in those countries anymore.

If we completely give up anger, won’t we be ignored by others and simply not taken seriously?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If we stop the “either-or” and “me-you” confrontations, if we stop hoping and fearing, this doesn’t mean that we suddenly become friendly vegetables, sitting around, looking at our navels and saying “OM” every hour.

When one has removed the disturbing emotions, then one becomes really effective. Beyond what we think, what we want, what we imagine, beyond this level lies the total joy, power, love—the full energy of our mind. Everything is there, and only when the disturbing emotions are gone can it express itself completely.

We don’t allow anything and everything to be done to us. We don’t become passive or sit around like an ascetic who permits everything without interfering. When the disturbing emotions are gone, then we step in. We become like a “crazy elephant,” as Milarepa said; we do exactly what is needed, without expectations or fear. We react like a sword and cut through wherever necessary.

When you switch from an “either-or” to a smooth “both-and” way of thinking, then you can work with the energies and lead them where you want. So instead of stopping the tiger, you tie a plow to its tail. You direct it, and then it plows the entire piece of land you wanted to sow.

I myself see everything unpleasant as a purification and everything pleasant as a blessing. I see what harms beings, what causes their problems. And with a beyond-personal motivation, I then step in and let things happen the way I want. This happens to all of us as soon as our own expectations and fears are gone. You suddenly have much more strength than before. You’re more effective and certain in what you do. If you are sure that you are doing the right thing, without ego, then you are much stronger and more persistent. But you must not get angry in the process.

In many martial arts, it is said that you must beware the anger of a patient man, because he knows what he is doing. He hasn’t wasted his energy in five minutes of drama. He works in a focused way on what he wants. Always make sure that everything you do emerges from a simple, good conscience; otherwise you lose face. You sit there with egg in your beard and nobody can take you seriously.

The way to change could look like this:

At the beginning, for example, you might go to vote thinking, “Where will I get the biggest amount of money?” or “How can I avoid further speed limits?” On the next level you might think, “What benefits everybody? What brings them more and more freedom and lets them all thrive?” On the third level, you know what you do is right and you simply do what is in front of your nose. There are no more doubts. You are beyond personal; you do what is most useful.

With a Buddhist attitude, one never becomes a “wimp.” However, we already misunderstand this a little bit too. Buddhist countries are usually easy to overrun and destroy. When attacked, they don’t defend themselves well enough. This applies to the countries that were mostly governed by monks. When there were more practical people—laymen and yogis—they could defend themselves better.

If one thinks, “Everybody has Buddha nature; they are fine and we don’t need to protect ourselves,” then the neighbor—who might have only been a little villain—becomes a big villain because he was given the chance, because no one showed him his limits so that he could learn to behave well.

We should be strong and able to protect ourselves!

Although I try to work with my disturbing emotions, some people still make me aggressive. What should I do?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Keep trying until the people don’t make you aggressive anymore. If you think about the fact that all people—even those who make you mad—can expect sickness, old age, and death, then your anger will turn into compassion.

Look at your antagonist like this: He was born, that hurt, he cried, he was so little and unprotected. During his life he had many wishes; some were fulfilled, others weren’t. Right now he wants many things he can’t get. He wants to avoid many things he can’t avoid. Maybe he wants to avoid you but you’re there anyway. And he constantly has to look after everything he owns.

If you have observed this closely, then you will realize that he’s badly off and has difficulties. You can develop compassion and see that this poor guy needs your help rather than an argument. Then you can step aside and let him hit the wall. Or you stop him in a way that is unpleasant for him. But when you react in this way, it must never be out of anger! You have to be aware that if he develops a habit of behaving badly, then it will be very difficult for him to change again. So stop him now.

You can handle people as you like, impress them, be charming, and so on, as long as you wish to liberate them. Check yourself! With compassion and the wish to be useful for others, you can apply your charm. And if you are free of anger, then you can be hard on others in order to help them.

First, always keep the liberating Buddhist view in mind. Then when you begin to see more clearly how people live, what they wish for, and how many difficulties they actually have, aversion will constantly decrease and your wishes for their happiness will increase.

What is the difference between hatred and anger?

Anger is something that comes fresh from the machine. It is hatred if it has been stored in the warehouse for a while.

Anger is there if you react to something. In the case of hatred, the memory of unpleasant experiences is already there, and then negative feelings are activated. Hatred has deep roots and can spread widely. Anger is more a short-term reaction and then you forget the situation.

The gradient within Europe is interesting as well: The farther you go south, the faster anger flares up; but the people there also get rid of it quickly. In Northern Europe, anger appears more slowly but it also stays longer. So the emotional reactions within Europe are a bit different.

Is there a quick antidote we can apply if we are suddenly caught by anger?

The best antidote against anger is to be prepared, to have worked on the topic before something happens. It is good to be already wearing the parachute before jumping out of the window.

If we are suddenly struck by anger, the best is to imagine the Lama above our head, and then—like a bucket of water being emptied—his blessing flows through us and we become the Lama. That is the fastest method.

In the different phases of meditation, we learn to see how feelings appear, try to catch us, and then dissolve again. When one has seen this often enough during meditation without reacting to it, then one has a protective distance for ordinary life. And that is then a huge advantage.